SALT LAKE CITY — Police announced Friday that they have recovered the body of slain University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck.
"In the wake of this tragic, tragic incident I am relieved and grief-stricken to report that we have recovered Mackenzie Lueck in Logan Canyon," Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said.
The body was recovered Wednesday and investigators were later able to confirm that the remains were of Lueck.
"I spoke with Mackenzie's family this morning — another devastating call. Despite their grief, we hope this will help them find some closure and justice for Mackenzie," Brown said.
Police declined to provide details about Lueck's recovery, including the exact place where her body was found, the condition of the body or a possible cause of death. They also declined to say what led them to Logan Canyon, about 85 miles north of Salt Lake City.
The man police arrested for investigation of Lueck's murder had lived in Logan while he attended college there several years ago.
Last week, police would not say whether a body had been recovered. They would only say that "female human tissue" that matched Lueck's DNA was found in the backyard of a Salt Lake home in the Fairpark neighborhood, 547 N. 1000 West. Police said they also found several charred items in that yard that "were consistent with personal items" belonging to Lueck.
Lueck, 23, was last seen early on the morning of June 17 when she flew into Salt Lake City International Airport after attending a family funeral in her hometown of El Segundo, California. Surveillance video at the airport recorded Lueck making her way to baggage claim, and then getting into a Lyft vehicle.
Police say the Lyft driver dropped off Lueck at Hatch Park in North Salt Lake about 3 a.m. where another person in a car was waiting for her. That was when "all communication" from Lueck's phone stopped, Brown said.
Ayoola Adisa Ajayi, 31, is accused of murdering Lueck. He was arrested June 28 in connection after police said he and Lueck had been texting before she went missing. Data collected from the cellphones of both Lueck and Ajayi puts them at Hatch Park at the same time early that morning, Brown said.
Investigators have not yet released a timetable for when they believe Lueck was killed or where and how it happened.
No formal criminal charges have been filed against Ajayi, but he is being held without bail in the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a human body and obstruction of justice.
Ajayi attended Utah State University in Logan "on and off" starting in 2009 but never graduated, according to school officials. He was banned from the campus in 2012 after he was arrested for investigation of stealing an iPad, according to campus documents.
He was also named in a rape investigation in Cache County involving a co-worker. The woman in that case declined to press charges but still filed a report with police after the alleged incident "in case he did the same thing to someone else," the police report states.
On Tuesday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill got an extension to file charges and asked a judge to extend the time Ajayi is held in jail. By law, a person can only be held 72 hours in jail after being arrested before either criminal charges are filed, the person is released or a judge grants an extension. Gill said formal charges are expected to be filed early next week.
Brown expressed his thanks to all the detectives, crime lab investigators and officers who spent "thousands of hours" working on the case.
"Over the last two weeks, they have dropped their personal lives and worked thousands of hours to get us to this point. As a police chief, there are no words that I could use to express my feelings and I couldn't be prouder of the women and men in this department," the chief said.
"Whenever our community experiences a loss like this, the tragic circumstances have the potential to tear at the fabric of our community. I'm here to ask you, to implore you, to remain respectful. The tight-knit nature of this community is what helped us close this case so quickly," he said.
"You have rallied together behind the Lueck family through this family, and I have felt that overwhelming support."
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski also offered her condolences to the Lueck family and praised the police department for its efforts.
"As a parent myself, this is a circumstance beyond belief. It's a scenario you can't even imagine happening in your life. I hope the information today brings additional closure to Mackenzie's family and friends, and I continue to offer my support as you grieve and seek justice," Biskupski said.
"I believe this case shows how serious we take crime in Salt Lake City and I personally want to express my deep sorrow and that I and this community are here for the Lueck family," she said.